NEW YORK (Reuters) - Fewer than 15 percent of major Hollywood films last year included gay characters and virtually all of those were minor or bit parts, the media advocacy group GLAAD said in a report released on Wednesday.
GLAAD, which monitors media for representations of gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people and issues, tracked Hollywood output for its first Studio Responsibility Index mapping the quantity, quality and diversity of images depicted.
"As a major influence in American culture and one of our nation's largest media exports abroad, the lack of LGBT characters in big-budget films needs to change," said GLAAD spokesman Wilson Cruz in a news release accompanying the report.
"Until LGBT characters are depicted in these films in a substantial way with more regularity, there will remain the appearance of LGBT bias on the studios' part," Cruz added.
The organization researched films released by major studios including 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, Sony Columbia, Universal Pictures, Walt Disney Studios and Warner Bros. for the report, which it said was meant as "a road map toward increasing fair, accurate and inclusive LGBT film representations."
While both Hollywood overall and many top stars have been outspoken and active in support of gay rights and gay marriage, GLAAD found that of the 101 major studio releases in 2012, only 14 contained characters identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual, and there were no films containing transgender characters.
It also evaluated the representation of the gay characters who did appear, as to whether they were defined solely by their sexual orientation, and whether their inclusion was germane to the plot, as opposed to providing colorful commentary, painting urban authenticity or setting up a punchline.
Only six of the 14 characters met the criteria, GLAAD said.
Its breakdown for films with gay characters found that 56 presented gay male characters, 33 percent featured lesbians and 11 contained bisexuals.
Comedies were much more likely to feature gay characters, GLAAD found, with more than one-third of the studied films including them. At the other end of the spectrum, only one of 21 major studio dramas, or 4.7 percent, had a gay character.
(Reporting by Chris Michaud; Editing by Mary Milliken and Eric Walsh)